Dry eye disease is a very common problem that I see in my clinic. Instead of talking about population statistics, that almost nobody cares about, let me summarize it for the reader: it is very common. In fact, it is so common, that the reader almost certainly knows someone, or multiple people, with dry eye.
Dry eye is actually a very complex disease, but I will attempt to simplify it, without making it "too simple".
I tell patients that the term "dry eye" is not a very good descriptive term. "Tear film dysfunction" describes the condition much better, but that doesn't exactly roll off of the tongue.
There are two basic types of dry eye. The first type, which is less common, is when people simply don't produce enough tears. You may have this problem if you have Sjogren's Syndrome or other related autoimmune diseases. These patients have trouble producing tears when chopping onions or when crying over something emotional. A common questions I will ask patients is "do you cry" or "can you cry". Interestingly, many or even most of my dry eye patients will answer "yes" to this question, which shows you that this is the less common situation.
The more common type of dry eye is called evaporative dry eye, which means that you produce tears, but they evaporate too quickly. This is often the result of problems with oil production from the oil glands in the eyelid margin (or edge). These tiny oil glands are called "Meibomian glands", and they are really quite important, despite their small size. Commonly, these glands can get clogged, or may just not work as well due to aging, inflammation, or hormonal reasons. We call this "Meibomian gland dysfunction", and it is a common cause of dry eye disease, and goes with dry eye.
Please check back on this blog for some over-the-counter treatments for dry eye.